Building a collection on your own? Consider this…
Whether you are collecting jewelry, vintage cars, wine or artwork, the transition into a serious collector involves knowledge, relationships, record keeping and preservation. Can you fill all of these shoes? Good business managers surround themselves with the expertise capable of handling these daily obstacles allowing them time to focus on their long term objectives.
As the collector, KNOW your subject. Don’t let them “see you coming”(with a pocket full of money). [As I am an art collector, I will reference art terminology. I’ll let you make the connection to the items that you collect] Take the time FIRST to learn the history and artists of the style or styles that you are interested in. When I started collection Japanese swords and sword furniture I studied Japanese kanji since the majority of the reference material was written in Japanese. I did the same with the Russian language when I became interested in the Suprematist and Constructionist Art movements. Understand how and why the style or movement came about and how it developed. Know who the significant players were and their place in the hierarchy within the movement. LOOK at as much art as you can. Visit local galleries, art fairs and museums. ASK questions!
Once you know what you like (and this will change or grow as you progress), develop personal RELATIONSHIPS with curators, dealers, auction houses and other collectors. If it sounds a lot like networking…it is. These relationships can provide valuable information about artists, available works, otherwise unavailable sales values and private “want lists”. (see “…KNOW your subject” above) The information learned from these relationships could give you an advantage and/or the ammunition to intelligently negotiate the purchase or sale of works for, or in your collection.
Protect your collection by RECORDING the details. The details of the item itself as well as the details of the purchase/sale and the history (also known as provenance) should be recorded. A good start is by using the OBJECT ID developed by the J. Paul Getty Trust in 1993. This will get you through the basics. Record the condition of the item. I don’t mean Excellent / Good / Fair / Poor. What does this really tell you? Be specific such as flaking paint, fading, rust, tears, dents, broken parts. Include any known restoration and conservation attempts and who conducted them. In addition, make sure you record all of the financials. When you bought it, how much you bought/sold it for (trade or partial trade value), who you purchased it from, who insures it and how much it is insured for. Keep up with valuations. Collectibles are a commodity like oil and soy beans. The value will go up and down over time. Appraisals on collectibles should be conducted every three to five years on average. You should also note the history or provenance of the item. This can be problematic as you do not always know or can find out who the previous owners of the item were. Go back as far as you can. I would suggest collection inventory software to assist you with this. There are many collection inventory programs out there to choose from. I found one by The Antique & Art Information Network, Inc. that includes screens for all of the above information. These are great people and have support based right here in the good ole’ USA!
As collectors, we are simply the stewards of our collections for future generations. We assume the responsibility to PROTECT the items in our care. Collection management; to include proper display, insurance, physical protection, storage and restoration/conservation is vital to ensure the value and enjoyment for years to come!